One of the biggest surprises of the spring was the dominant performance of the Rice football offensive line. Their development is just getting started.
The youth movement is in full force on South Main and few position groups are immune. The defensive line looked to be one of the deepest groups on the team following the 2018 season. Then the transfers of Roe Wilkins and Zach Abercrumbia put a near-certainty into a state of flux. Between Abercrumbia, Wilkins and rush end Graysen Schantz, Rice will have to replace 151 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss.
Void of their old leaders, new guys have been forced to step up and lead the way. The results after spring ball were extremely encouraging.
“It’s a new group with a new identity,” said defensive line coach Cedric Calhoun. “They want to be good. They want to understand the concepts and want to play at a [higher] level.” That next level was evident from the very beginning. Trey Schuman and Elijah Garcia have stepped up their efforts, so too did guys like Myles Adams and Kenneth Orji.
Their success came at the expense of the offensive line. That unit, buoyed by the addition of grad transfer Nick Leverett, was expected to take a large step forward in 2019. That still might be the case, but the intensity and disruptiveness of the new-look defensive line made any sort of sustained rhythm out of reach this spring.
While the defensive line may lack “star power” they plan to make up for it with execution and poise. Calhoun said the mindset he’s working to instill in his guys is simple, “If you know your job assignment and your job description along with your motor… you’ve got a chance.”
To some extent, the process isn’t rocket science. “We teach smart, tough and being reliable… Fundamentals are day in and day out,” Calhoun said. His group has approached the task at hand with the level of focus necessary to find success. They’ll need to find a way to transfer that knowledge to the field on Saturday’s in the fall.
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